Chicken and mash

I have recently moved back to Hong Kong, so expect some nice posts on the wealth of great Asian food that you can get in this city soon. I’ve already started exploring some of the new restaurants that have sprung up while I was back in the UK. But because I’ve also just moved into a new place, with a nice shiny new kitchen, I thought I’d see how easy it’d be to reproduce a Nigel Slater classic that I’ve cooked many times before in this foreign location.

Take two chicken thighs (Wellcome in Hong Kong has these for HK$20). Rub some olive oil into their skin and then season them with a fair bit of salt and pepper. Heat up a pool of oil in a large pan and drop in a big chunk of butter. Wait until the butter and oil start to bubble, then throw in the chicken – let it brown on both sides and then turn down the head. Take a few meaty cloves of garlic, press them down with a knife side until they split and throw them into the pot with the skin still on. Leave the chicken so it is just hissing slightly in the pan. Cook like this for a good forty minutes or so.

Then take the chicken and the garlic out of the pan and keep it warm. Pour some wine into the pan (the recipe really says you should use white wine, but I had some red left over from a past meal and it seemed to work well too). The wine will de-glaze the pan, taking up all the fat that is stuck to the bottom and absorbing all the bits left over from the chicken. Simmer it for a while to boil off the alcohol and reduce this gravy. Throw in some herbs – time if you can get it, or rosemary in my case.

I’d say it’s best to serve this with mash of some kind to soak up this nice gravy. I made standard mashed potato that has a nice earthy texture to compliment the crisp and slight oiliness of the chicken flesh. I think that sweet potato mash would also work well. Anyway, all in all, a nice simple dish, and easy to produce even in Hong Kong with limited resources and ingredients.

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Pork In Milk

Yesterday evening I tried cooking a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe for Pork In Milk which was published in the Guardian Weekend Magazine a couple of weeks ago.

The recipe is loosely based on the Italian dish Arrosto Di Maiale Al Latte. There are good articles about how to cook that here and here. From what I can tell, the main thing Whittingstall’s recipe adds is the use of lemon zest and sage in the milk sauce.

Basically the recipe involves first making a milk sauce loaded with herbs, garlic flavoured oil and lemon. The flesh of the pork then absorbs these different flavours as it slowly simmers in this sauce. It’s a simple method, but it works wonderfully.

The pork slowly cooked in the milk comes out tasting wonderfully tender and smooth. It has nice subtle flavours, the earthiness of the different herbs sitting well alongside the slight zestiness that lingers from the lemon.  A thin slice of this buttery meat, with a bit of the creamy tasting curds of the sauce, tastes fantastic.

More and more, I feel that slow cooking of meat is the way forward, producing the softest most flavourful results. But slow cooking in milk adds something extra again, letting the meat not just stay soft but absorb a kind of creamy smoothness. I plan to try this variant next.

Hong Shao Rou

This definitely isn’t the first time I’ve posted a photo of this Hunanese dish. But the reason I post about it, and cook it, so much is because it has got to be one of my all time favourite things to eat. The slow cooking makes the fatty cubes of pork belly wonderfully soft, so that they melt in your mouth. And each cube has soaked up and become swollen with such rich, heady flavours, a potent mixture of sweet wine and soy sauce with hints of the ginger and a slight buzz of chilli. This all sort of seeps out of each piece to delight you when you eat it. The sauce alongside the meat could be bottled up on its own and sold, because scooped onto pearly grains of plain white rice it turns them into something magnificent. But couple these flavours with the textured cubes of meat and you have something truly amazing. I used Fuchsia Dunlop’s recipe to make this dish, and find it works perfectly. Her writing about the origins and story behind it is also well worth reading.

Japanese Style Grilled Salmon

The Japanese are masters at preparing fish. Whether precisely slicing it into sushi and sashimi, or grilling it lightly, they always succeed in bringing out the natural  flavours of the fish so well. Their knowledge of the fish, and the techniques they use to prepare it have been carefully refined over more than a thousand years.Whilst I really like Japanese raw fish dishes, probably my favourite part of the cuisine are the different grilled fish. I remember the first time I had grilled tuna jaw in Hong Kong – breaking through that crisp charred skin with my chopsticks to reveal soft flesh that parted into small pieces when touched. Each piece was spongy and loaded with flavour, bearing a subtle hint of smoke from the grill.

Unfortunately getting Japanese grilled fish in the UK is much harder than getting sushi and ramen, which have spread widely around the world. Because of this, I decided that I would try to cook my own. Searching the shelves of a local Korean store, I picked out some special citrus infused soy-sauce that said it was ideal for dipping fish and meat. I hoped this might make a decent enough version of the sauce usually served with fish in restaurants.

I also picked up a huge white daikon radish from my local Chinese supermarket, chopping it up into tiny pieces. I bought a few chunky pieces of salmon from the local market. To prepare these, I first rubbed salt into them on all sides. Then I put them to soak for five minutes or so in a mixture of salt and boiling water. I was loosely following this recipe.

I used a top down grill. Technically, you’re supposed to grill the fish from below using a special oven but I didn’t have this option. I first placed the fish skin down directly onto the metal bars of the grill tray. I wanted to let the flesh toughen up a bit in cooking before I laid this down, fearing it would break apart and fall through the grill. I left it for about 10 minutes on each side, about 10cm below the hot grill, until the surface of this fish and the skin began to blister a little.

Overall, this seemed to work pretty well. The skin and the upper surface of the fish both had a nice, salty crispness to them, but this wasn’t as good as the smoky charred taste a real grill would give. The salmon flesh didn’t dry out at all and had a good full flavour. It wasn’t quite as succulent as the versions I have had in restaurants, and I wonder if trying recipes which marinade the fish might help with this. Unless somebody wants to tell me of a Japanese restaurant doing great grilled fish in the UK, I shall have to keep experimenting.

Sitaram Dewen Chand – Chole Bhature

 

Chole Bhature from Sitaram Dewan Chand

Chole Bhature from Sitaram Dewan Chand

About 

Chole Bhature is probably the best of all the street foods I found in Delhi. Rather than something really fancy, this is  hearty food for the ‘common man’ – eaten by people across India. But its subtle taste really can carry it above this staple dish and make it something quite special. The chole is a stew made primarily of chick peas softened until they are just breaking apart and sunk into a thick sauce which is full of spices. Some raw onion is often scattered on top to add a bit of crunch to it all. Although to my knowledge there’s no meat in the dish, the hearty sauce and the chick peas have a really satisfying meatiness about them, tasting very earthy and substantial in flavour.

The stew is eaten using bhature – breads made out of maida flour. These have two layers pressed together, so that when they are fried the air in the middle expands and inflates them into a hollow ball. When you get them you press this flat like deflating a beach ball. The result is a really light, slightly spongy bread. It’s floury, fine layers are perfect for scooping up the chole, the dark sauce of which soaks into the softness.

The best place I found for Chole Bhature was Sitaram Dewan Chand a stall in Paharganj that was recommended to me by the Eating Out in Delhi blog.  Every time I went to this stall, the counter was crowded with people all jostling to get to the front, elbowing each other out of the way, and snaking their arms into any space possible in an attempt to give their money to the guy. As though there was not rush at all, the old guy would just sit their, casually taking money from each person and passing out a little plastic disk. Behind him the other staff were bustling away, ladling chole into little dishes and laying a few onion and a carrot piece on top, heating up the bhature on a bit hot plate, then passing out both to the clamouring crowds.

To me what made the dish so good at this place was the sublety of the spices in the chole. I also had chole at a few other places, and while it was hearty it didn’t really have the strong, dinstinctive flavour that this one had. In each bite you could really taste the balance of the different ingredients giving it an earthy, yet strong flavour. A green spicy sauce was just lightly mixed in, adding an extra layer to the taste. And with the heartiness of the chickpeas and the sauce, there was also this slightly more spicy kick which slowly built in the mouth.  The meaty sauce here goes perfectly with the softness of the bread, which were made really well at this stall so that they felt spongy as you tore each piece off.  The layers of the bread had a few herbs sunk into them, adding an extra dimension to their taste.

Directions

From the Rama Krishna METRO – Exit on the Rama Krishna side and walk along the street past the front of the Rama Krishna Mission. At the end of this road, turn right onto Main Bazaar and walk a little way along, passing the Metropolis Hotel on your left. Just afte the hotel, the road curves round to the left, with the Main Bazaar continuing straight on. Follow the road round to the left, passing the Imperial cinema on your right. Keep walking about 100m, looking out for the stall on the left hand side of the road. It has a plastic covering outside and is normall pretty crowded with people. 

The address is 2246, Chuna Mandi, Paharganj. This road is often called “Rajguru Marg” and runs between the Main Bazaar and the Desh Bandhu Gupta Road. The restaurant is on the ground floor of the building with Hotel Chanakya in, so look out for this sign.